Packing is fun because you get to decide on a limited set of belongings that will carry you through a specific (adventurous!) time in your life – in a different place than you normally are. One of the exciting things for me is the opportunity to be minimalistic – something I normally am not, but would like to be, especially when it comes to clothing and travel.
I’ve learned through several extended travel periods (being away for 6-7 weeks up to 8 months) that as much as you pack, you will inevitably not use some items. I packed fairly lightly for my 6 week trip to Australia and still had a sweater or two that I NEVER wore. After repeating a similar length trip last summer (when we lived in Colorado for 7 weeks), I finally realized that once you’re gone for more than week, you pretty much don’t need to bring anything beyond what you would bring for just a week-long trip – especially when it comes to clothes (the great thing is that you can do laundry pretty much anywhere in the world you go!)
Shortly after I created my packing list for my trip to Cambodia this summer, I started strategizing about how I could bring as few items as possible. My goal is to really only bring what’s absolutely necessary to get by and have everything I need for six whole weeks. I read this post by Reading My Tea Leaves at just the right time; in her post, Erin talks about various options for travel backpacks that function as a suitcase. As soon as I read it, I knew I needed to get a backpack-type suitcase.
I ended up purchasing the Tom Bihn Aeronaut 45 (in steel/ultraviolet). I wanted to pack as lightly as possible because I will be traveling to multiple cities in Cambodia, a few other countries, and will be doing a lot of that traveling solo. It made sense to me to have one large piece of luggage that I could carry on my back so that no matter the scenario (running through airports, walking on dirt roads, catching taxis/buses/tuk-tuks, packing up from hotel to hotel), I will be able to confidently carry my own bag. I even think about going to the bathroom before my flight – I won’t have anyone to watch my luggage, so I don’t want to have a bunch of junk that I’ll have to haul around. I love the Aeronaut 45 because it’s small enough to bring as a carry-on, it’s roomy (I can fit more than my normal carry-on), you can wear it like a backpack or use the shoulder strap (costs $30 extra) or handles, it opens flat like a suitcase (instead of a typical top-loading backpack) it’s stylish, and the company is trustworthy.
Note: I paid the extra $5 to get a whistle built-in to the chest strap, in case of emergencies. I hope I don’t have to use it, but it’s nice to know it’s there! Also, I didn’t spring for the bottom waist strap, but if I feel like I need it I can always order it for future trips.
The past several times I’ve flown to visit my parents (they live in Georgia, we’re in Virginia and used to live in Pennsylvania), I’ve easily packed all I need in one carry-on (this Stella & Dot Getaway Bag in Green Ikat – awesome because it unzips to create extra space for your souvenirs on the way home!). As nice as it is to just carry one thing (I pack this Coach fold-up tote in my bag – yikes, didn’t know how expensive it is… I got it as a gift), I always inevitably end up carrying around more stuff through the airport – water bottle in hand, phone in my back pocket, Mexican food for lunch in a to-go box in a plastic bag – you know how it is. So, in addition to my main backpack, I grabbed the Shop Bag (in small, Iberian color) also from Tom Bihn after seeing it in use in this (awesome!) post by Naomi. In it, I can throw water and snacks or lunch, my travel pillow, a toiletries bag for small necessities (pills, a pen, tissues, eye drops, etc.), and a book for the plane.
When I arrive in Cambodia, I will use the LL Bean Stowaway Day Pack (I have it in chartreuse and got it on sale + with a gift card, woohoo!). It folds up to fit in my main piece of luggage, but when I get to Cambodia I can pull it out and use it daily on my trips to the farming villages. Having a backpack is much nicer than carrying a shoulder bag/purse/tote when you’re out in the hot sun and need to haul around a bunch of various items; it can also help prevent theft as someone can’t just reach right in and grab your stuff. I plan to fill it every day with my camera, rain jacket, a couple of water bottles (there are two side pouches for bottles), any papers I might need, my computer, snacks, wallet, phone, and whatever else. There are enough pockets to keep track of little things, while still being light enough to fold into a packable size. I’m looking forward to carrying it!
I wasn’t actually planning on bringing a purse at all, but when my mom offered this lightweight fabric tote (that she got in Indonesia), I couldn’t resist. It’s certainly easy to pack as it’s thin fabric and doesn’t even have any buttons or zippers, and it will be great for those nights when I’m going out to dinner and don’t want to take a backpack into a restaurant (I’m sure you can relate! There’s nothing wrong with a backpack, but it makes you feel like you’re traveling instead of just going out for the evening!).
So, that’s the main structure of the organization of my trip in terms of how I will carry everything around. As far as packing cubes go, I didn’t want to spend the money on them this time, but I’ve found that you can easily organize everything within your bag using large Ziploc bags for a fraction of the price!